1972, was such a transitional year for English neo-folk. There were such a paucity of solid releases and well thought out ideas coming out of that genre that you’d be hard pressed to figure out why this was happening. You could say that bands like Lindisfarne, once thought of as the next Beatles, presented to the masses an idea that maybe folk music could just be good ole pop or soft rock music. Once this occurs its much easier to lump a brilliant song like “Fog on the Tyne” with the Raspberries and Badfingers of the world, and call it a day. All the while, other musicians were thinking, why bother trying to be a folkie, when you can be a glam god like T. Rex and Get it On?

What forces such a stasis for neo-folk in 1972? Well, great musicians that could expand the genre either decide a) to lay low for a bit so as not to get culled in with their less artistic brethren, b) submit to the watering down or c) head in different route…at this time, most of them in the progressive, art, or hard rock directions. But that’s them…and not Lindisfarne, Lindisfarne shouldn’t be spoiled by the sins of others.

Fog on the Tyne album cover.

Led by the masterful pop minds of Alan Hull and Ray Jackson from Newcastle they were one of the early bands that heard the intrinsically hooky sounds of certain English folk traditions and decided to update this feeling with more modern influences that drew from Americana and Schlager (bordering on pub-rock) styles. Smoothing down the edges, but not the feeling of rolling, pastoral old England, allowed them (much like Paul McCartney) to present an easily relatable, slightly Cockney set of tunes that anyone can easily sing along to and comprehend.

The songs on their two folk pop masterpieces 1970’s Nicely out of Tune and 1971’s Fog on the Tyne didn’t include any huge long tales of Reynardine, and epic sonic vistas of Trees, but the more communal, layman problems of plebeian English, in a decidedly more humble, yet equally important, way. For now, the time of neo-folk to take stock and hold their swords for a bit, allowed other genres to start to inform them more fluently. I’ll continue on to 1972 tomorrow, but for now take a bit of respite and:

Lay down your bundles, of rags and reminders,
And spread your wares on the ground.
Well I’ve got time, if you deal in rhyme,
I’m just hanging around.

Bonus track, hang around for a bit with them on French tv (I’m already there in spirit…):